Hello there and welcome to your weekly Kent County Cricket Club ramble, ‘Canterbury Tales.’ You’re probably wondering why two Fridays of your life were rendered, ‘Canterbury Tales’-less and more importantly me-less. Yes, over two weeks without everybody’s favourite Kent correspondent. But I’m back now and for the foreseeable future.

Catching Up

Well, what a 20 days it’s been since you last heard from me. There’s been plenty of action that we need to catch up on. However in today’s edition, we’re just going to be focussing on one thing. You guessed it, Joe Denly in the England Test team. My prayers being answered!

So, if you don’t like Denly (psssst there’s no one who doesn’t like my Joe), then leave now and come back next Friday. Let’s stop messing about and get into it!

Bayliss And Root, You Finally Listened To Me!

‘Twas nine days ago and the night before England’s second Test against Windies Cricket.’ Well, the afternoon prior to the match scheduled to take place at the Three Lions’ not-so-happy hunting ground of Antigua and on Twitter, something fantastic was stirring.

The fact that England’s media team had forgotten to include an “@” in the Tweet and essentially claimed that Joe Denly’s name was “joed1986” mattered little for my prayers had been answered by the gods.

Well, I say the gods. Joe Root and Trevor Bayliss, who understandably, are nothing akin to god-like figures in the eyes of a cricketing nation at this moment in time. But we’ll get onto that later.

After suffering watching Denly forced to carry drinks throughout the entire Sri Lanka tour, and not be gifted a deserved Test debut, not to mention the years of non-selection before that. It was finally happening and I’m not sure who was more nervous, him or I. As at 2pm the following day, he would be opening the batting alongside Rory Burns, flying the flag for Kent on his Test debut. It was all happening so quickly. The main thing though is that it was happening and you know me, I couldn’t wait!

First Innings

Under 24 hazy hours later, the moment arrived at long last, at the Sir Viv Richards Stadium on an unforgiving pitch for batsmen. I watched on as I worked from home that afternoon. Dreaming of a debut fifty or better still. A century. Perhaps he would break Brian Charles Lara’s record of 400 not out, the highest Test match score in history?

Once again, I don’t know who was more proud, he or I, when he strolled out to the middle in the Antiguan Sunshine alongside Burns. Another late bloomer in terms of Test match cricket.

Burns was number one and Denly number two. Unsurprising given which player is the most experienced at that level. But let’s not forget the Surrey (boo) man was a debutant himself in November in Sri Lanka. It was intriguing to me that Joe had been picked to open the batting.

Sure, he’s opened regularly in the limited-overs matches for Kent, but you statisticians out there will know he hadn’t opened in the longer format since 2014. Well, statisticians and Tino Best. Quite frankly, it was none of his business and he should get back to minding those windows at Lord’s…

Feather In The Cap

I still had full faith in Denly. And I’m sure most people reading this know what happened in the first innings. But when you consider he spent nine overs at the crease and lasted longer than Burns, he really didn’t do that badly in horrible conditions to make your Test debut.

I’m willing to admit that the manner of Denly’s dismissal was very frustrating as it really wasn’t a ball he should have been out to. Watching the video in the below Tweet portrays that better than I would be able to.

Although let’s face it, his six really wasn’t the worst score on that day as England slumped to 187 all out in the first innings. The most pivotal thing was, he now had that feather in his cap. His first Test innings.

Another feather in the cap would come just before tea on Day Two, the final over before tea. In fact, when Denly would be given an over of spin with Root’s side struggling to break down the Windies battling lineup. And a good one it was too! Just the one run from it.

Second Innings

As Windies were eventually toppled for 306 in Denly’s maiden Test, taking a lead of 119, it was time to open again for Denly, around 20 minutes prior to lunch on the third day. The Windies attack would be fierce. Especially with a new ball in hand and the pitch hadn’t got any easier. Well not for England anyway. However, Denly would look calmer and more assured this time.

Playing some beautiful strokes and hitting some lovely fours, which I celebrated gleefully as I once again utilised SkyGo to watch the cricket while working. ‘Work? On a Saturday?’ You’re thinking to yourselves, ‘there ain’t no rest for the wicked,’ I reply.

Seeing Burns once again fall cheaply at the other end and then Bairstow come in and get out just as quick, Denly skips to 17, before another questionable and heart-breaking dismissal. This time from the bowling of Alzarri Joseph, who was doing incredible to even be playing just hours after the passing of his mother.

Leaving a ball that was destined for the off-stump had proved the downfall of the Canterbury-native on this occasion as he stayed at the crease for an impressive 116 minutes. The longest innings of the innings for England.

It may have not looked great at the time. But as it turned out, the knock was the second best for Bayliss’ men, with only the 24 of Jos Buttler beating it. Sure, Denly was lucky not to go on duck, just like in the first innings, but he certainly stuck around and proved something of a point.

Prove You Wrong

The overall result of the Test was a disaster for England as the series slipped through their fingers and the hosts romped to a 10-wicket win. Now, before we take a little look ahead to the next Test, let’s get serious.

My Denly has come in for a lot of criticism following the defeat. Let’s firstly, not forget it was his Test debut and a real baptism of fire; playing somewhat out of position in the top two. And face it, he really didn’t do as badly as some anti-Kent and anti-Denly fascists are wrongly claiming. See this disgraceful Tweet below…

What I will say to the Denly-doubters is this. In spite of everything that was going against him in that second Test, he still came out of it with more runs than his captain, opening partner Burns and Sam Curran.

All in a shameful England performance. Denly’s first ever contribution to Test cricket was neither here nor there, for me.

Yes, he would have felt he could have done a lot better, but there were some bright sparks and they need to be taken forward. Just you wait, he will prove all of you wrong and rise, winning the consolation Test and the 2019 Ashes for the mighty Three Lions [roars defiantly at the laptop screen].

Third Test

As I just mentioned, there is of course now the formality of the dead-rubber third Test in St. Lucia. Prior to the start of the limited-overs clash between Windies and England later in February, which we expect Denly to also be fully involved in.

In terms of this last Test match, Denly deserves another pick, whether that be as an opener or further down the order or more as the all-rounder that he truly is. And most experts tend to agree that one Test is way too little to judge the great man on!

Until Next Time…

Well, then, not bad for a first edition in three weeks, huh? ‘Excellent as always, Luke,’ is without doubt what you’re thinking and maybe even saying aloud to yourself (it takes all kinds).

The good news is that to hear from me next, you only have to wait another week, as we bring you more Kent chat next Friday. Looking forward to reminiscing on a Denly 100. You heard it here first folks!

Until next time…